Even a few years ago, the idea of lawyers working remotely – and not in a plush office – would have seemed eccentric. For many people, lawyers are perceived as stuffy professionals who reside in expensive offices surrounded by leather-bound books and rich mahogany. But the world is changing and the profession has evolved to meet the new demands of both employees and clients.
Today is National Work from Home Day (#nwfhd) and to celebrate a brave new world of flexibility we have collected top tips from several lawyers at Lexoo and several employees at our own LexisNexis UK. While some of these should come as no surprise, it is often the non-obvious tips that can make the most difference. So here are our top 7 tips:
The enabler: prioritise high quality broadband
The speed and reliability of an Internet connection was by far and away the most important factor identified by the lawyers and workers that shared their experiences with us. The importance of a high quality broadband is largely because it is the key enabler of working from home. Without it, working remotely is hardly feasible. So the top tip here is to ensure you spare no expense in getting access to the best quality.
On a related note: it is important to ensure you have decent mobile phone reception for calls with clients and colleagues.
The office set-up: getting your space right
The second most common tip was to ensure you have the right set up at your remote working spot – whether that is at home or elsewhere. If you do work from home, many people felt it important to have separate work space. To clearly delineate between spaces where you are ‘home’ and where you are working. As one LexisNexis employee notes:
“A comfortable working environment is also essential if you’re working for long periods – I use a docking station for my laptop and have separate screen, keyboard and mouse as you would in the office”
In a similar vein, two of the lawyers using the Lexoo platform shared their advice:
“Make sure you have a dedicated space to work from with everything set up properly. It has been instilled in me the importance of having my laptop on a stand and a separate keyboard.”
“Don’t skimp on your printer/scanner – you will spend a lot of time scanning documents so make sure you have a good, large capacity sheet feeder.”
On a lighter note: this can be especially important if you’re doing a live television interview!
Keeping up appearances: video conferencing
In bygone days, if you were not in the office, you were not a visible presence. This could often be isolating and lead to self-doubt about recognition. In today’s technologically advanced age, the prevalence of high quality (and often free) video conferencing tools helps to improve the ability of remote workers to maintain important face-to-face interactions. A common theme from the workers we spoke to was the importance of keeping up social interactions. Often emails and even phone calls can mask the important soft communications that help colleagues work together and help clients gain confidence in you. With tools such as Skype, remote works can be ‘felt’ more as a real presence, rather than an impersonal email signature.
Related note: dressing for work even if you’re not leaving the house has anecdotally been found to aid productivity.
Task and matter management – teamwork out of office
The ability to manage multiple tasks is critical to the success in every profession – the legal world included. With cloud-based project management tools becoming better and cheaper (for example, see Trello), there is no reason for remote workers to feel out of the loop. As law firms become savvier around commercial online tools, the ability of remote workers to have clear visibility of progress and deadlines improves. Suddenly, not being present in the office for meetings has become less relevant as your tasks become clearly listed on easily accessible online locations.
Instant messaging: now!
While emails still remain the bread and butter of a lawyer’s communications, the proliferation of instant messaging tools and professional social networks is slowly altering office dynamics. Tech giants such as Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Slack are eating away at the email titan and offering workers an instant and more informal chat option. The ability to instantly respond to questions and queries has removed yet another barrier for remote working. So while you may not be in the office or cubicle next door, you are only a few keyboard strikes away!
Discipline: remove the biscuit tin!
Another recurring theme was facing the challenge of discipline. There can be distractions at home that require mental willpower to avoid. But almost all workers had a more positive outlook on how working remotely can facilitate more efficient work patterns. For example, one lawyer states:
“If you do work from home though you need to find a way to structure your day and separate work from home life somehow. The beauty of it is you can do it your way rather than having to work fixed hours. By far the best thing is not having to commute, it is incredible to think how much time that took, time I could have been working or spending time with the family.”
You need the right tools
As a remote-based lawyer, it is essential that you have access to quality legal information. Many law firms will have their own database of precedents and guidance – but these can often be cumbersome to access remotely. LexisPSL and LexisLibrary give you access to trusted and clear legal information based in the cloud. As one of the lawyers who uses Lexoo mentioned:
“Indispensable: Online and hard copy legal resources like LexisNexis/legal texts”
If you’re interested in learning more about LexisPSL or to take a free trial, click here.
BONUS TIP: the majority of workers mentioned investing a good coffee machine. This author can only agree!